- ILWU activists convince City Council that port access is critical to the region’s jobs and economy
A controversial plan to build a sports stadium in Seattle’s “South of Downtown” (SoDo) industrial area next to the Port of Seattle was rejected by the City Council on May 2.
The 4 1/2-year struggle pitted a billionaire hedge fund tycoon and powerful developers against a community coalition of progressives, trade unions, the maritime business community, Port of Seattle, ILWU leaders and members from several locals. The coalition worked together to protect hundreds of good-paying waterfront jobs that would be threatened by the stadium’s inevitable traffic jams and gentrification.
More than 100 rank-and-file longshore workers spoke out and participated in public hearings. In addition to the community support, the ILWU’s lawmakers in Olympia – resulting from work by the Puget Sound District Council’s lobbyist.
The deciding vote involved whether to turn over a public street to the private developers. That proposal was defeated by the City Council in a dramatic 5-4 vote.
“This fight was always about finding the best location for a new stadium – which never should have been in SoDo,” said John Persak, President of the ILWU’s Puget Sound District Council, who helped coordinate the fight. He credited the victory to diverse community support that included ILWU members and pensioners who attended meetings and made phone calls to City Council members.
Former Local 19 President Cam Williams made the decision more than four years ago to challenge the SoDo location. Williams, who now serves as a Coast Committeman at the ILWU’s San Francisco headquarters, made the key decision with members in 2012 to challenge the stadium location and enlist expert legal help from the Washington Forest Law Center, a respected public-interest environmental group.
A slew of court hearings, mailings, news reports, editorials, and debates followed – sometimes generating intense pressure against the union from Seattle’s political establishment. Persak credits current Local 19 President Rich Austin, Jr. for continuing to support the fight after being elected President where he worked with other ILWU Locals and the District Council.
Persak is careful to note that the SoDo Stadium plan was wounded on May 2, but not killed. “We’ll have to remain vigilant to make sure our support from the Council remains solid because the pressure from the political establishment to build in SoDo is enormous.”
Local 10 Drill Team members rolled out the red carpet to honor their longtime leader, “Captain Josh,” with a surprise party on April 30th that celebrated the Team’s 50th Anniversary.
Captain Josh was completely surprised and nearly speechless when he entered the OVO Tavern and Eatery in Oakland to discover the secret celebration was being held in his honor.
“Drill Team members and their families just wanted to surround Captain Josh with all our love and appreciation for everything that he’s given to our union and the Drill Team,” said Local 10’s Sabrina Giles.
Giles co-hosted the event with Local 10’s Trevel Adanandus who owns the OVO Tavern and donated the cake, hired a photographer and produced the event’s backdrop. She thanked a hard-working team of volunteers including Dr. Drew, Lori Marchell, Marie Bacchus from the IBU, Local 10 Business Agent John Hughes, and all Local 10 members who helped pay part of the tab. A personalized cake with three “edible photos” honored the Drill Team’s 83-year-old leader.
Further honors came later in the evening when Drill Team members presented their leader with a certificate of appreciation, a large plaque and bestowed him with a new title – elevating the former “Captain” to “General” Josh Williams.
Williams, who rarely speaks at great length, said he was truly touched by all the honors and recognition. He thanked everyone
for their generosity, then broke out with a special rendition of his “7th Street Song” that celebrates African American history in San Francisco; recalling life in the City’s Fillmore neighborhood, where barbeque and jazz joints flourished after the Second World War – along with a host of colorful street characters who are mostly now gone. When Williams finished his song, he was followed by more performers from the Drill Team ranks, including Janice Smith and Paul from ‘da Hall.
As the long night of celebrating drew to a close, Williams was treated to a complimentary night in a nearby hotel, which spared him a late night drive across the Bay Bridge to his San Francisco home.
“I’m ready to have one of these younger people take over at some point,” said the General, “but I’ve still
got more time until they’re ready to step up.
Big rally in Portland
Bernie Sanders’ decisive May 17 primary victory in Oregon was preceded by a May 3rd rally in Portland’s Shemanski Park that attracted more than 750 union members and community supporters. The rally was initially planned by Local 8 member Jeff Smith to be held at the Local 8 hall but moved it to the park because of growing interest and the bigger crowd that came to the event.
ILWU officers attended the rally including ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, ILWU International Vice President (Hawaii) Wesley Furtado and President Alan Coté of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU).
Unions represented at the rally included, the ILWU, the IBU, Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union, the National Nurses United and the Postal Workers Union.
Bernie Sanders was not able to appear at the rally, but Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) spoke at the event. They highlighted issues that have mobilized millions of Americans to support the Sanders campaign: opposition to so-called “free trade” deals like NAFTA, CAFTA and the TPP that have devastated workers, ending mass incarceration of poor people and people of color, climate change, the lack of Wall Street regulations and a campaign finance system that leaves working people virtually voiceless in the political process.
Vice President Furtado introduced Congresswoman Gabbard at the event. He thanked her for the strong support she has given the ILWU in Hawaii and for her commitment to the working men and women of Hawaii.
Smith said there was a strong turnout from ILWU members at the event, including people who traveled from Seattle and the Bay Area to attend.
Sanders’ overwhelming support in Oregon was confirmed when he scored a 12-point victory margin on Election Day – and set the stage for a showdown in California’s June 7 primary.
So Cal Organizes
Southern California ILWU Locals geared-up for their final month of outreach and educational work before the June 7 primary election with a campaign kickoff event for ILWU volunteers on May 5 that was attended by 100 volunteers, including members, pensioners, and family – plus community leaders and special guests from other unions.
Southern California Pensioners Group President Greg Mitre served as Master of Ceremonies. He was joined by SCDC President Cathy Familathe of Local 63, SCDC Legislative Representative Floyd Bryan of Local 13, and former ILWU International President David Arian, who now serves on the Port Commission.
“We have four weeks to contact and educate ILWU members about Bernie Sanders before the election,” said Greg Mitre on May 5. “We need to make sure everyone we know is informed and registered to vote.”
On May 17, Bernie came to the Stub Hub Center in Carson where an estimated 20,000 supporters filled the stadium for a supercharged evening rally. Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., joined other ILWU officers and members who attended the big event.
“The diversity of the crowd showed his support crosses racial, gender and socioeconomic lines,” said Olvera, Jr. “He reminded us that a great country requires dignity and security for all our citizens – not just luxuries for the one percent and corporations.”
Nor Cal Outreach
ILWU Local 6 is serving as a hub for the Northern California District Council’s outreach effort. A mobilization on Saturday, May 21 sent volunteers out to Bay Area neighborhoods where they contacted ILWU members about Bernie Sanders.
On May 18, Bernie Sanders appeared at three Northern California locations, beginning in San Jose where he was met by a large crowd that included many union members. In the afternoon, he joined a rally in downtown San Francisco to support hundreds of hotel workers and custodians.
“We need to grow the unions in our country so that workers can negotiate fair contracts, fair wages, and fair working conditions,” Sanders told more than 1,000 supporters who jammed downtown streets in the financial district. Among those marching in San Francisco were members of Local 6 and Local 10.
The day concluded with an early evening rally at Waterfront Park in Vallejo, a working-class community that’s been hit hard by foreclosures and personal bankruptcies caused by the Wall Street financial crisis. Members of Local 6 and 10 attended the event that attracted more than 10,000 supporters who came on short notice.
“The crowd was impressive and peaceful,” said ILWU Coast Benefits Specialist= and Local 10 member John Castanho. “He hit all the issues that ILWU members care about.”
The June issue of The Dispatcher will include analysis of the California Primary and next steps in the Presidential campaign.
The Coast Longshore Division Caucus convened from April 18-22 in Panama City, Panama. This historic meeting was the first Longshore Caucus to meet outside of the United States or Canada. More than 100 caucus delegates, fraternal delegates, and pensioners attended the Caucus.
“The Panama Canal Division is an important part of the ILWU family. We are here to show our support for the workers in this new division,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath.
The Panama Canal Division was formed by a unanimous motion at the 2012 ILWU Convention. Discussions about the possible affiliation began in 2002 when International Vice President Ray Familathe explored the issue. In 2010, President McEllrath and Vice President Familathe began talking about formal affiliation with Londor Rankin, General-Secretary of the Panama Canal Pilots Union.
Today, the Panama Canal Division includes 250 members of the Panama Canal Pilots and 2,580 dock workers from SINTRAPORSPA, the Union of Dockworkers in the Ports of Balboa and Cristobal.
On the first day of the Caucus, General-Secretary Rankin of the Panama Canal Division welcomed the delegates to Panama. Rankin introduced the vocal group “The Three Divas” who sang acapella versions of the Panamanian and American national anthems.
“We gather here to strengthen the strategic alliance between our unions and to send a loud and clear message to our counterparts that we continue to be united and grow stronger regardless of our nationality,” said Rankin. “We know we are not alone in the struggle to improve the wages and conditions for all of our members. We are proud to be among you, and we are honored that you have chosen Panama as the place for your Caucus.”
Several Panamanian media outlets published articles about the historical significance of the ILWU Coast Longshore Division’s first Caucus in Panama. The publication, Panama On reported in Spanish, and the translation is: “This meeting, which is the first to take place in Panama, aims to reaffirm the existing strategic alliance between these two unions, which is mainly based on the noble principle of international solidarity, which has come in handy in the struggles of workers around the world, in this case, in the maritime port sector.”
Later that night, the Panama Canal Pilots hosted a dinner for the delegates at their union hall, where caucus delegates had an opportunity to meet with members of the Panama Canal Division. Later in the week, the Panama Canal Pilots hosted a dinner at the Miraflores Locks, demonstrating the 103-yearold lock operations viewable from an outdoor deck reserved for ILWU Coast Longshore Division guests.
The Caucus was dedicated in the memory of a number of individuals who have recently passed including Ralph Rooker (Local 10-retired), Hugh Hunter (Local 13-retired), Jesus Puga (Local 13-retired), Gordon Neely (Local 19), Robert Stevens (Local 19), Dale Martinis (Local 19), Jarrett Van Curen (Local 19), Richard Cavalli (Local 34-retired), Emile Lewis (Local 34), Donja Grant (Local 34), Jim Crest (Local 40-retired), Bill Hallet (Local 63), Anthony Harris, Jr. (Local 63), Domenick Miretti (Local 63-retired), John Vlaic (Local 94-retired), William Kendall (Local 98), and Oliver Pickford (Local 98-retired).
Safety, technology, training, and political action
The Caucus dealt with a range of issues facing the industry and union members, including the impact of megaships on port congestion and port infrastructure, automation, registration, safety, training, contract administration and jurisdiction. As election season heats up for the US presidential and congressional races, political action was also a high priority for the Caucus. A resolution was passed to motivate members to contribute to the ILWU’s Political Action
Fund, and money was allocated for the 2016 Political Action Program. PMA’s contract extension request In March 2016, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) sent President McEllrath a request to discuss an extension of the 2014-2019 Longshore Contract. President McEllrath submitted this request to the ILWU Coast Longshore Division Caucus and the issue was discussed. In keeping with the ILWU Coast Longshore Division’s democratic process, the Caucus has submitted the matter to the membership for review and input before taking any official action.
ILWU send off
The Caucus honored ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko, who is retiring at the end of his current term. The Caucus also paid tribute to Southern California Coast Director and ADRP Representative Jackie Cummings, who is also retiring.
SINTRAPORSPA members visit
Alberto Ochoa, Secretary General of SINTRAPORSPA, which represents more than 2,580 longshore workers in the Port of Balboa in Panama and is affiliated with the Panama Canal Division, spoke at the Caucus. “We are grateful to you because you played a key role in the organization of SINTRAPORSPA,” Ochoa said.
In keeping with the tradition of warm Latin American greetings, Ochoa said he brought a “fraternal hug” for all in attendance and said, “We are honored that you chose to have this meeting in Panama.”
By Benjamin Charles - Baltimore IWW, May 26, 2016
FREDERICK, MD-- Workers at True Technical Experts LLC (TTX), an IT subcontractor for major retailers, have gone on strike today demanding an end to wage theft and harassment, and demanding recognition of their union, the Industrial Workers of the World. The workers have submitted a list of demands, which includes raising wages to the industry standard, regular hours, and an anti-harassment pledge from the business’s owner, David Gerlak. IWW workers at TTX have struck twice in the past two months over unpaid wages, winning their back pay both times, although Gerlak has refused to recognize the union. Minutes after being contacted by an IWW representative, Gerlak declared that he had fired two striking employees, in obvious violation of federal labor law.
TTX is a small IT subcontractor whose workers install cabling and other hardware for some of the nation’s largest retailers, such as Target and CVS. As is often the case, their work is handled by a complex chain of contractors and subcontractors, producing a “race to the bottom” where wage theft and poor working conditions are common. For over a year, workers at TTX have organized underground for job stability, respect at work, and an end to substandard wages and conditions.
“We’re tired of being treated like machines,” said TTX field technician Andrew K. “If David won’t treat us like human beings, with basic respect and dignity, we’ll just have to force him to. We are prepared to stay out on strike for as long as it takes.”
This is not the first time these major retailers have had labor issues with their subcontractors. Following years of protests and strikes by a Minneapolis-based workers’ center representing janitorial workers, Target agreed to language stipulating that “cleaning companies it works with cannot interfere with workers’ organizing rights, must follow wage-and-hour laws and must establish worker safety committees.” While no such language currently exists for their IT subcontractors, TTX workers are confident that, with a little encouragement, Target will soon extend its ideals to them as well.
Gerlak has made repeated threats to fire two workers who are members of the IWW, and even threatened to shut down the business in retaliation for union activity. The Baltimore IWW is filing Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against TTX for these blatantly illegal threats.
The workers are asking supporters to stand in solidarity by donating to their strike fund. Donations can be made at https://www.crowdrise.com/support-trutech-workers-organizing
It had been much rumored for weeks that presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders would come to San Pedro. The question was always when?
Random Length News, with our close ties to the ILWU and the local Bernie campaign office, only found out about this event on May 25, the Wednesday before the Friday rally. I was surprised that it was as well organized as it was considering all of the logistics and security needed to put on this event.
Only about 1,800 to 2,000 people but they were solid Bernie supporters — the California Nurses Association, United Teacher Los Angeles, United Steelworkers and, of course, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. All of these unions gave rousing endorsements of Sanders. They also spoke about most of his campaign themes.
When Bobby Olvera Jr., the president of ILWU 13, who was only there as “one of the harbor workers,” asked the crowd what the motto of the ILWU was, the response was overwhelming, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
And that, Olvera said, “was true for every American worker in the country!”
The spirits were high and the crowd was excited by the time Sanders took to the podium. He spoke about about universal healthcare, free college tuition to public universities and the rigged economy that Wall Street and the too-big-to-fail banks controlled.
With all of the excitement, it was difficult to read what this rally really meant except for who was missing from the political line up: Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Joe Buscaino and even Rep. Janice Hahn did not attend even though her district office is but a block away from the Harbor rally site. All three of these have endorsed Hillary Clinton and are pledged super delegates to the convention.
“How will they vote when their district go[es] for Bernie in the primary?” Olvera asked.
The only two candidates attending were Warren Furutani, who is running for the 35th State Senate District and long shot 44th Congressional candidate Marcus Musante, running against Isadore Hall. Hall also was absent from this rally.
By Admin - Portland IWW, May 1, 2016
Portland, OR – In a historic move, workers at Portland-area fast food chain Burgerville announced at a rally in the Clinton Street Theater on April 26th that they were forming a union, the Burgerville Workers Union, in affiliation with the Portland branch of the IWW. They marched from the theater to the Burgerville location at Southeast 26th and Clinton to present their demands:
- an immediate $5 an hour raise
- affordable, quality healthcare
- a safe and healthy workplace
- fair and consistent scheduling with ample notice
- a supportive, sustainable workplace including paid maternity/paternity leave
- free childcare and transportation stipends
A typical Burgerville worker makes only $9.60 an hour, and is typically scheduled just 26 hours a week, just under the 30 hours a week which would make them eligible to receive benefits. That equals out to about $990 a month before taxes. To put that into perspective, the average apartment rent in Portland is $1,275 a month for a one bedroom apartment, and most apartment complexes require prospective tenants income to exceed 3 times the amount of the rent.
“Most people can’t even afford to have an apartment. In Portland, everyone knows that the cost of living is insane. It basically took me a second job to be able to have a place of my own. I couldn’t afford it with what Burgerville pays me,” said Greg, Burgerville worker and union member.
Other workers cited problems with management’s uncaring attitude toward their employees: “I need to be able to take a sick day without fear of retaliation,” stated Robert, a Burgerville worker at the Powell location.
The workers forming the Burgerville Workers Union represent a cross-section of the community – young people, seniors, mothers, fathers, students, and grandparents. They put passion into their work, and want to improve their workplaces for themselves, their co-workers, and the community.
“We’re trying to make Burgerville a better place – I just want to be able to do my job and be paid a living wage. This is going to make Burgerville better, by having happy employees that work hard and are proud of their jobs” said Debbie, Burgerville Worker Union member.
The Burgerville Workers Union is supported by the Portland IWW and endorsed by a coalition of local unions and community groups, including ILWU Local 5, IATSE Local 28, SEIU Local 49, Portland Association of Teachers, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Portland Solidarity Network (PDXSol), Portland Jobs with Justice, Blue Heron Collective (Reed College), Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, Alberta Cooperative Grocery Collective Management, Hella 503 Collective, Marilyn Buck Abolitionist Collective and People’s Food Co-op.
To lend your support and solidarity, check out the Burgerville Workers Union website.
- PRISONERS ORGANIZE: Free Alabama Movement spreads to Virginia as prisoners take up IWW banner
- TEACHERS FIGHT BACK: Teachers, students, parents and others fight austerity across the United States
- HOUSING STRUGGLES: Portland Tenants United organize against eviction and displacement
- ....and more!
See attached, or view & share the issue online!
April 5-8th, 2016 ILWU Canada held their 34th convention at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel in Surrey, BC, Canada.
In attendance were 110 delegates joined by 12 international delegates including ILWU International President Robert McEllrath, ILWU International Vice President (Mainland) Ray Familathe, and ILWU International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams,
ILWU Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr, and four delegates from ILWU Alaska Longshore Division,
International Transport Workers Federation President Paddy Crumlin, and delegates from the Maritime Union of Australia, the Maritime Union of New Zealand, including MUNZ National Secretary Joe Fleetwood.
ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko announced that he will be retiring at the end of his current term. Delegates applauded his service to the union and President McEllrath presented him with a gift on behalf of the ILWU International.
At the end of convention, nominations took place, and the results are as follows:
President: Robert Ashton by Acclamation.
1st Vice President: Shawn Nolan by Acclamation.
2nd Vice President: Steve Nasby by Acclamation.
3rd Vice President: Romeo Bordignon and Dale McEachern running for the position. Election Results to follow.
Secretary-Treasurer: Bob Dhaliwal by Acclamation